earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Prayer Guide for Church Planting

Church Plant Map (2015)

Thank you for praying for the advance of the gospel in Tanzania. As you know, the primary objective of these updates is for informing your prayers. We’ve posted specific ways you can be praying for missionaries. More recently, we’ve updated you on the challenges facing church planting efforts in Mbugani. As you consider that church plant and others in prayer, you may keep in mind some of the following matters:

    1. Please pray that evangelism may reach various people groups (Acts 12:24; Gal 3:26—28; Eph 2:14, 15).
      • While women and children are generally responsive and available to talk about the gospel, it can be challenging to engage men with the gospel.
      • Pray for opportunities to reach less prominant tribes with the gospel.
      • Pray for opportunities to reach Muslims and others steeped in traditional religion.
      • Pray for opportunities to reach people that have been shut out from the community.
      • Pray for opportunities to reach people of different educational and financial conditions.
    2. Pray for good participation in evangelism (Matt 9:37, 38).
      • Pray for perseverance. In some cases, people are traveling hours by foot and bike to make evangelistic visits.
      • Pray for faithfulness to the gospel. None of us are worthy of the message we proclaim. May God’s grace to overcome our faults for the sake of His name.
    3. Pray that the gospel may bear fruit that multiplies (Matt 7:1–23).
      • Pray that people may receive the word of God, rejecting shallow and false substitutes (1 Cor 1:18).
      • Pray that God may open the eyes of their hearts so that they may begin to grasp the significance of the gospel in their lives (Eph 1:17–23).
      • Pray that God may protect against exceptional temptations, especially temptations to revert to non-Christian faith (Matt 6:13).
      • Pray that young believers may stand firm in the faith (Eph 6:10–18).
    4. Pray that people may be drawn to the church because of the gospel more than hope of foreign aid, choir music, or construction of a church building (Rom 1:16).
    5. Pray for those leading and teaching.
      • Pray that God would protect the church from false and otherwise unhealthy teaching (1 Tim 1:3–11).
      • Pray that God would provide for the needs of church planters and their families (3 John 7).
      • Pray that God would provide wisdom in learning how to feed and lead a new group of believers (1 Tim 4:15, 16).
    6. Pray for protection from those who would exploit a young church for their own benefit (Acts 20:28–31).

January 19, 2018   No Comments

July 2017 Prayer Update

For this update we reflected on recent reasons to give thanks to God and recorded it in a short video. We also included a special family announcement. Follow the link below to see it online.

Prayer Update

  1. Thank the Lord with us that the churches successfully organized a fellowship to coordinate their work together and (eventually) fulfill their requirements to the government. The June 22nd meeting was notable as a mark of the churches’ growing maturity.
  2. We are grateful that our co-worker, Beth Roark, is receiving good medical treatment in the States. Please pray for her recovery from surgery, the success of this treatment, and Tumaini Children’s Home while she is away.
  3. We are preparing two Bible Institute classes for August: one on the church and a second on bible interpretation. Please pray for teachers and students alike so that the Lord may be served in these efforts.
  4. Please pray for Laura’s health and strength regarding the happy news we shared in the video 🙂

July 20, 2017   4 Comments

Bible Institute Update

The biggest news-worthy updates in our work here in 2017 revolve around the Bible Institute. If you have followed the bigger narrative of the gospel’s advance in this part of Tanzania, you may already know that the Bible Institute has been refitted to be the primary vehicle for helping existing churches grow in spiritual maturity and viability. While there is much more work left to be done, we are glad to report that God has already done great things out of these efforts.

Story of the Bible, March 2017
Story of the Bible, March 2017

Testimonies We Have Heard

The students and their pastors share with us how God’s word is being proclaimed and heard, and how people are being changed. Here are some of the things we are being told:

  • “I have never seen a church with this kind of love and participation.”
  • “Your church actually teaches the word of God!?”
  • “Thank you for teaching my wife,” says one student. ”It used to be that I would drag her to church. Now she is dragging me!“ The same wife later described how she sometimes has trouble making quick trips to the market. She has found herself in gospel conversations for multiple hours there.
  • “I thought I knew the gospel. Now I realize that I didn’t and that there are so many churches here full of people that don’t know the gospel.”
  • “Every day [in class] I discovered how I don’t have anything before God whereas I had thought I was something before. Every day I was emptied and filled up again [with truth].”
  • “I visited an older man to share the gospel. He responded with surprise, ‘I’ve been worshipping at this church since you were born and I’ve seen your behavior when you were younger. And now you want to preach to me the word of God.’ I went home and prayed and another day returned to share the gospel. He listened to the gospel and was convicted of his own sin, asking how he could have never heard these things all the years he has been attending another church. The next Sunday he started coming to worship God with us.”
  • Observing how the students have faithfully shared the gospel, one pastor said, “We’ve become used to seeing new people come to church each week.”

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April 16, 2017   No Comments

January 2017 Ministry Update

For this ministry update we reflected on what has been accomplished in life and ministry in 2016 and recorded it in a short video. Hit the play button here on the blog or follow the link below to see it online.

[vimeo 199005673 w=400]

Prayer Update

  1. Please pray that the young church in Usagara will develop habits of taking in God’s word and praying together. William and I are planning in-home visits to encourage informal group reading and prayer gatherings.
  2. New believers are being prepared for baptism and membership in the churches of Shadi, Lusolelo, and Usagara. Let’s rejoice together! Let’s also pray that these young believers may understand the foundations of their faith (think of Rom 6:4).
  3. Organized evangelism is under way in Bukokwa and Mbugani under the leadership of the churches in Nyakaliro and Lusolelo, respectively. Please pray that more would hear the gospel and respond in faith and repentance. Also join us in praying that God may raise up true disciples (John 8:31) who will eventually become fit church leadership (2 Tim 2:2).
  4. Our kids continue to grow and experience more of life in rural Africa. As Ian (and eventually Kyla) try to make sense of where they are in the world (asking, for example, why are they different than nearly every other kid they see in Tanzania?), please pray that they would ultimately turn to God and listen to Him.

January 12, 2017   No Comments

September 2016 Ministry Update

In this video update, we talk about the blessings of having guests from our partnering churches. We also look forward to the events of the coming months. Watch it here or follow the link to see it on Vimeo.

Prayer Update

  1. Thank the Lord for season with safe travel and good visits with our guests.
  2. We met with representatives of the Tanzanian churches on Tuesday (30 Aug) and discussed church and missionary cooperation in church planting. The results of the meeting were positive. Besides the evangelism we missionaries are doing (in Usagara and Malimbe), please pray that the other efforts being led by Tanzanians to spread the gospel and plant churches would be bear lasting fruit for the glory of God (e.g., 2 Thess 3:1).
  3. We have started membership interviews in Usagara where we will be asking prospective church members about their faith and agreement to the church constitution. Please pray that God may help us to foster a mutual understanding of the true gospel (despite language barriers) and build unity grounded in Scripture.
  4. Bible institute students should have finished their work assigned in February’s class on the gospel. Dan and I are preparing a class on spiritual growth to be taught in September. Please pray that homework and teaching would prepare people to honor God in obedience.
  5. Please pray that God may preserve Laura and I with sufficient strength and patience to serve each other and our children. I’m sure we are all aware of our need for God’s grace. Some days the intense sun, noise of young children, and the typical stomach ailments can mount up and cause us to feel that need acutely.

September 1, 2016   No Comments

March 2016 Prayer Update

I have maintained blog silence for longer than I’d prefer. There has been some intense focus on the Bible Institute during February and then some equally intense focus on a family vacation in early March. Following that, the first thing I wanted to pass along to you is the answers to prayer we’ve seen in the Bible Institute classes of the last month. To give you the best look at what God has done, I’ve spent some time putting a video together. It’s now ready. The video is longer than our usual updates and the craftsmanship is spotty, but I hope you’ll agree that the content is significant.

Prayer and Praise

  1. Thank you for praying for the Bible Institute class. Without a doubt, this has been one of the most encouraging experiences of our work here thus far. Perhaps the greatest praise is that God continues to bear fruit as students use what they have been taught in evangelism and mutual encouragement. Praise the Lord with us and pray that God may be pleased to sustain what He has started.
  2. May our families and churches be properly focused on God’s grace to us through Jesus’s death and resurrection this weekend. I will be preaching the Good Friday message in Shadi. Other pastors are planning for evangelistic messages this Resurrection Sunday. Pray that God may be glorified.

March 24, 2016   1 Comment

December 2015 Ministry Update

For this ministry update we reflected on what has been accomplished in life and ministry this year and recorded it in a short video. Watch it here or follow the link to see it on Vimeo.

Prayer and Praise

  1. We anticipate that the new class of Bible Institute students will begin their studies this January and February. The first year of study will be open to anyone in the churches and focus on the gospel and its implications. Please join us in praying that this coming year of Institute work will help equip people to live worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27).
  2. By God’s grace, both church planting efforts are moving forward. Evangelism continues in Usagara and Malimbe. In Usagara, Wiliam and I are also exploring what kinds of teaching and experience baby Christians need in order to understand who they are in Christ and what the church is. In Malimbe, Dan Eads and Makusudi are canvasing homes for evangelistic Bible study. Please continue praying for the advance of God’s word.
  3. We continue praying that God would enable us to be effective stewards of the things entrusted to us. Thanks to God new tenants have been found for our house in Michigan. We continue praying that our old truck in Tanzania may be sold.
  4. Please pray that God may use the relationships we are building with our neighbors for His purposes. We believe that this requires wisdom to know how to help those in need, how to speak the truth in love, and the opportunity to take the time with them that relationships require.

December 18, 2015   1 Comment

October 2015 Ministry Update

For this month’s update we recorded a short 4-minute video.

[vimeo 141789422]

Prayer Update

  1. By God’s grace, we are in a place where His gospel can be preached house-to-house. We and our Tanzanian coworkers are investing personal time and resources to share God’s word with others in Usagara, while preparations are under way in Malimbe to start evangelism there. We pray that out of these efforts God will produce fruit for the sake of His name.
  2. Tanzania is approaching presidential elections this October. The political scene has been relatively peaceful for decades here, though the potential for conflict is now increasing. The increased competitiveness can be good for the democratic process. On the other hand, some signs suggest that this competition induces oppression and violence. Please pray for peace in which the gospel may be proclaimed.
  3. These months at the end of the dry season tend to be exceptionally difficult on our friends and neighbors. Food harvested from the last growing season is running out, prices are climbing, while preparations for the coming growing season create an added financial burden. We pray God will show Himself faithful to provide for all of us and that our part will be played with wisdom and compassion (1 John 3:16–18).

October 9, 2015   No Comments

May 2015 Ministry Update

We recorded a 4-minute video for our ministry update this month.

[vimeo 127835754]

Meanwhile in TZ…

  1. Dan Eads has been leading regular discussions with Tanzanian church representatives. The meetings have been profitable. As we consider how to help the churches, the churches are being asked to think about their priorities–and that’s a good exercise!
  2. The property tax/land rent dispute with the Mwanza City Government is still at a stalemate. On one side our neighbors are fighting to keep their homes, while on the other side, the City’s plans to develop this area are derailing.
  3. Rachelle Miller at Tumaini Children’s Home is preparing for visitor season while Beth Roark’s plans to return have been postponed again for health reasons. The next few months will be busy for everyone in Shadi.

Prayer Update

  1. The next couple months will be furious-fast. Most Sundays between now and the end of June are booked with two church meetings each. Thankfully we also have time reserved for rest with family before traveling back to Tanzania. Please join us in praying for safety, meaningful interaction with church partners, and time to be restrengthened for return to life in Africa.
  2. Please continue praying for Beth Roark as she reconciles a desire to return to Tumaini Children’s Home and the need for her to be in the States for health care.
  3. We are grateful that God has provided a much more reliable vehicle for our use in Tanzania. It remains, however, for us to find a new home for the LandCruiser we are no longer using. We would appreciate your prayers for wisdom in handling personal and ministry property in TZ and the States so that these things enable good work rather than hinder it.

May 14, 2015   No Comments

Sukuma Dancing and Worship

Sukuma Dance Exposition in Luchelele

One Saturday in September 2014, a Sukuma dance troupe visited the village near our home. I decided to check it out since the predominant tribe around us, the Sukuma, are famous in Tanzania for their dance competitions. My interest was piqued when neighbors told me that this dance society was also known for dances with live snakes!

But I didn’t get to see the Sukuma snake dance on that occasion; I left soon after the program started–once I realized that this sort of dancing was unfit for Christian scruples. Later I learned that traditional Sukuma dance competitions are typically opportunities to exhibit all the things that are otherwise too scandelous to speak of openly in the village.

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March 26, 2015   1 Comment